Today we have a question from Lacreda at a Habitat for Humanity Chapter. She says:
What I need is time! As a one-person shop who handles it all — grant writing, planning events, community outreach, data base management and the quarterly newsletters — I feel like I juggle balls just enough to put out fires. So I don’t effectively do everything for each area as I should.
Thanks for writing, Lacreda! You are not alone.
When I worked at a battered women’s shelter, I felt the same way. I had what seemed like 100 responsibilities, and I was always putting out fires. My entire day was reacting to things that came up, instead of being able to plan out my day, week, month, and even my year.
I actually love the topic of time management and have been thinking about it more and more these days, especially because I see so many nonprofit staff members struggling in this area.
In fact, this is an area of concern I hear from development directors so frequently that I created a keynote speech called Happiness, Habits, and Major Gift Fundraising: Strategies to Help You Survive and Thrive in order to help deal with the issue.
3 Time Management Tips for Fundraisers
So, here are a few suggestions:
1. Keep to do lists.
Make a list of your top 3-5 goals for the year. Then break those down into monthly tasks.
Finally, keep a daily to do list, and make sure there are tasks on your daily list to get you to your goals. Leave an hour or two “free” to answer emails and react to situations as they arise, but don’t let your day get taken over by pop-up issues.
In fact, every evening before you leave the office, take 5 minutes to make the next day’s to do list. Start with meetings and items already on your calendar. Then fill in holes with tasks which will get you closer to your goals. Make time to check email, but don’t check email all day long.
I love to do lists — I’m definitely a person who likes to check things off. I use this system for my business and my life, and it keeps me organized and on track.
2. Urgent vs. important.
You should also check out Steven Covey’s chart on Urgent versus Important. It will show you how many tasks you are spending time on that fall into the urgent but not important category.
In other words, is the urgent taking over for the important? What is getting in the way of you really raising money? What can you do to change this?
3. Limit email and social media time.
Finally, I know this is going to be the toughest one, but I strongly encourage you to limit time on email and social media.
Some experts estimate that we check our email up to 50 times per day? 50 Times! And that it takes us on average 5 minutes to refocus on the task we were working on when we got distracted by email.
The recommendation of top time management experts is to only check email twice per day. That seems unrealistic to most of us, but it’s a great goal. I like to try to work for 50 minutes, then check email for 10. Then start a new project – and work on it for 50 minutes.
I find that I get so much more done when I can really focus, and complete a task, without being disrupted. You’d be amazed what you can get done in an hour if you put your mind to it, and don’t stop to take phone calls or check emails.
Don’t Forget Breaks
Of course, you’ll need to build break time into your schedule as well to stay fresh and rejuvenated. Try to get up and move around during breaks, and don’t stay glued to your computer.
I hope that was helpful, Lacreda!
As a fundraiser, what obstacles do you have managing your time? Share them in the comments below.